As an empty nester, I spend a lot of free time these days at the dog park with my pup. Yes, I easily admit she is now officially spoiled and overly pampered, but these are the things we do. As I was watching her joyfully frolic with other dogs this weekend, I kept thinking, “Dogs are so much easier than kids, especially teenaged kids.”
There are certain days when the hormones and the not-fully-developed brains of our teens simply drive us to utter exasperation, both mental and physical. There are those maddening moments when we actually question our life choices and momentarily ponder, “Why did I ever have children?”
But I’ve never asked a question like that about our decision to bring a dog into our family. How do I love thee, doggo? Let me count the ways…
Here’s why we love our family dogs.
- Dogs are always happy to see you. Whether you’ve been gone three hours or three days, your dog reacts to your return home like you’re the greatest human on the planet. A teenager will return home after a weekend away with friends wearing earbuds, barely glancing in your direction, mumbling, “S’up?” as they head straight for their room.
- Dogs don’t complain about your cooking. They eagerly await whatever you’re putting into their bowl, and they lick it clean for minutes afterwards, always hopeful for a morsel they may have missed. Cooking for a teenager often results in declarations like, “Umm, didn’t I tell you I’m not doing grains this week?” or “Why can’t you cook the chicken like Emily’s Mom makes it?”
- Dogs always want to spend time with you. Suggest a walk? Yes, please! Indicate you want them to snuggle on the couch with you? Oh yes, ma’am! But you hint that you’d like to spend the afternoon with your teen and they have a hundred other things they “have” to do, like scroll through Instagram or continue on with their third hour of a video game.
- Dogs never verbally roast you about what you are wearing. Enter the room donning a ratty bathrobe or holey yoga pants and your pooch is proud to be seen with you. With teens, you can expect to hear loving comments like “Wow, Pop, that shirt really accentuates your Dad bod” and “If you think you look cool in those boots, Mom, you’re wrong.”
- Dogs are waaaay cheaper than teenagers. Even with pet food, vet visits and squeaky toys, dog costs pale in comparison to orthodontics, activity fees, driver’s training, AP tests, prom attire, team uniforms and college tuition.
- Every dog owner already knows their dog is the smartest pet around. So, there’s no stress about tutors, failed Geometry exams, SAT scores, class rank and scholarship essays.
- Dogs will wear whatever you buy them, at least for a little while. They will humor us by accepting the bows, holiday sweaters, silly Halloween costumes, bandanas, and cute snow booties, especially if a treat is involved. But when you dare think you’ve discovered the perfect sweater for your teen and you present it to them with high hopes of gratitude, you are often rewarded with a rude chuckle and a “No, thanks.”
- Dogs will watch or listen to whatever your heart desires. 80’s tunes for hours while you’re cleaning the house and belting out Madonna? OK. Shedding a few tears watching that sappy Hallmark movie? Don’t mind if you do! But attempt to change the channel when your teen is on their phone ignoring some horrible Netflix show and you will hear about it!
- Dogs will never text you at 10pm that they need a ride home. Then text you “Never mind Trey’s dad is getting us” at 10:12 when you’re almost there, then text you again at 10:28, “oh sorry I still need a ride” when you’re already back home and in your pajamas.
- Dogs never, ever roll their eyes at you. For those still in the trenches of the teen years, I promise it does get much better. Until then, if you don’t already have an emotionally supportive dog, consider getting one for the joy and acceptance they can provide.
The rough days with teens always seem better if there are “ruff” nights with a dog. Sorry, I couldn’t resist.
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